A wide-open field of nine horses will battle it out for Thanksgiving spoils in the 105th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Fall Highweight going six furlongs on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The traditional centerpiece of a 9-race Thanksgiving holiday card with a special 11:50 a.m. first post-time, the Fall Highweight will be featured along with the $150,000 Winter Memories and the $100,000 Central Park.
Runaway Lute, a 4-year-old New York-bred son of Midnight Lute for owners Harold Lerner and Nehoc Stables, enters the Fall Highweight following a victory in the Hudson Handicap on October 20 at Belmont Park. Set to make only his fourth start of the year due to a number of minor setbacks and first against open company since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course as a juvenile, he is now in good health according to trainer Gary Contessa.
“He's in good condition now following his win in the Hudson,” said Contessa. “He's always been a bit difficult to keep sound, but thankfully he's been healthy as of recent.”
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for three of Runaway Lute's four career victories, is slated to ride and Contessa is confident in the rider's ability to work out the best trip.
“He's a very versatile horse and can adjust to any scenario as the race develops,” added Contessa. “Javier knows this horse well and has ridden him a number of times, so I'm confident in whatever spot he wants to put him in coming out the gate.”
Runaway Lute will depart from post 5 carrying 126 pounds.
Trainer Jason Servis will enter a pair of talented runners with Command Post for owners Gary and Mary West and Life in Shambles for owner Ara Aprahamian.
A 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday Colt, Command Post kicked off his 2018 campaign with a second-place finish, by a head, in an optional-claiming race last March at Gulfstream Park. Returning to win the same condition in April, he most recently ran third on September 11 at Parx Racing in an optional-claimer. Command Post will leave from the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Life In Shambles, a 7-year-old hard-nosed veteran on the NYRA circuit with nine wins from 40 career starts, was claimed by Servis in July. Since joining his new outfit, he finished fifth in an optional-claiming race on August 19 at Saratoga and followed that up with an optional-claiming win on September 29 at Belmont. With Jose Lezcano in the irons, Life in Shambles will break from post eight.
Shipping in from Kentucky to make his 24th career start is Heartwood for trainer James Chapman who also co-owns alongside Stuart Tsujimoto.
A 4-year-old son of Tapit, Heartwood has two wins from eleven starts this year and an impressive four wins from 10 starts at the six-furlong distance.
Running a respectable fourth behind multiple graded stakes winners Promises Fulfilled, Whitmore and Limousine Liberal in the Grade 2 Phoenix on October 5 at Keeneland, Heartwood followed up with a second-place finish last out over a sloppy track in the Bet on Sunshine November 1 at Churchill Downs.
“I think he's gotten better with age,” said Chapman. “He's a horse that loves the cold weather and he's coming into this race well. I thought he ran really well in the Phoenix, it's just that he got outkicked by some better horses. His last race at Churchill, I thought he came back strong. The winner must have really loved the off track but those two separated themselves from the rest of the field.”
With meet leading rider Manny Franco aboard, Heartwood will leave from post 9 with 131 pounds assigned.
Also entered is Always Sunshine for Stonehedge LLC and trainer Ed Allard looking to rebound off a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint; Celtic Chaos for Zilla Racing Stables and trainer Brad Cox; Mesotherm for trainer Lacey Gaudet and owner Matthew Schera; Win With Pride for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owners Epona Racing Stable and Clyde Jasinski; and Lewisfield for trainer Jeff Runco and owner Linda Zang.
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